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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Small Screen Scenes: Downton Abbey Season One Episode One Highly Recommended by Whom You Know Available Now From PBS Distribution Bravo to All Involved!!! We Love You!!!

Peachy Deegan thinks one thing that she's seen so far this year tremendously blows everything else she's seen or done away, and it's called Downton Abbey, and this is just the first you're going to hear of it and much more is to come. Better than the best crabcakes, better than the best shoes from Italy, better than the best gadget she's ever used (well except maybe for the Lenovos she is devoted to typing on), and possibly just as good as the best gala at The Plaza, Downton Abbey is the show to beat of all time.  Every cocktail party we go to now we sing the praises of Downton Abbey - and not enough in New York know about it yet but we will change that. And so we begin at the start with Season One:

If you thought she was an Anglophile before, you should see her now.  Peachy sees the scenes in her head when she walks down the street. When she looks in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman she can hear the intro song playing in her head and thinks if Lady Mary were here would she wear that? And of course when she sips The Peachy Deegan cocktail she wishes Matthew was right next to her, like any female with eyes that has seen the show.  And when someone doesn't mind their manners in Manhattan, not only are we thinking of our Etiquette from Connecticut column, but we are thinking "Oh my, what would the Dowager Countess Say!" Maybe we should even ask her to chime in if she feels it's in her!  We fear Peachy may be too American for her though... If you don't know what Downton Abbey is now, fret not, because you can buy the whole of Seasons One and Two through PBS Distribution and watch it again and again until Season 3 comes out either later next year or early next.  Do it now in case they sell out - we would not be surprised if they did.  This is definitely what Peachy Deegan is doing: watching Downton Abbey over and over and over...and if you think we only watched each episode once before writing this, think again. We won't tell you how many times we watched each one!  This cast is killer, the script is stellar, and the execution is flawless.  And we're sure they're horrified by such modern American adjectives.  We'll try to spell colour like that and adhere to English traditions otherwise moving forward in our reviews of Downton.

We're embarrassed at how long it took us to catch on, but admittedly if you lived in Manhattan and had the life of Peachy, you wouldn't be sitting in front of your tv either.  That is, until you hear of Downton Abbey.  We were a little slow at the start of this series and just found out about it in January 2012 when Peachy was really quite sick and just had to rest and watch tv.  Before she actually reviewed this, she'd watch every episode of Season Two on each of the 3 PBS stations available to Manhattan cable subscribers as they debuted.   And since it's the best show ever, she just had to see if she could review it.  She was watching it obsessively anyway...and you too will be tremendously hooked with just one episode.  We cannot believe the whole cast was in New York in December 2011 and we just had NO idea.  That won't happen again!

Season One Episode One begins with a lesson in what a telegram must have been like.  A train shooting through the English countryside, even though it was a lot harder to get to and from London then.  April 1912 is the opening scene.  Just think-an age when the dawn of electricity was upon the world but still boasting the timelessness of the classes and the family royal order, all Top Hats and Tails.  And did you know they even ironed their newspapers-or rather, the footmen did.  From Daisy the kitchen maid all the way up to Lord Grantham (we can't get him out of our mind from the contrast in his role in Notting Hill), every character in the pecking order is painted in vivid color with lines that cut you and delivery that will silence you.  You will turn off your cell phone you will find the drama so compelling.  Put up the sign "Do not Disturb I Am Watching Downton Abbey." Lord Grantham and his faithful dog lead the way into an era that you will be transported to immediately, and not want to leave.

The Titantic disaster is the tragedy that is immediately thrust upon the cast.  This is brilliant because it is of course an event that the entire world knows, even if they don't know of Downton Abbey, and right from the start it is a disaster everyone is familiar with.  What Americans are not going to be familiar with is the class structure and the difference between the family of the Earl and the servants, and even more, the way both titles and assets are inherited.  Julian Fellowes is the epitome of talent in writing this whole series, which we believe to be worlds better than Gosford Park.

Thank you Cora for representing Americans in this!  We of course admire your personality and style, and love your interaction with all the cast of English people, particularly your cutting mother-in-law.   However, when they become allies to support their eldest grand-daughter and daughter, they really shine.

Downton Abbey is about keeping up tradition, valuing honor, and doing the right thing.  It celebrates what is good and sound in the world.  The way the Earl of Grantham treats Bates exemplifies this through the course of their entire relationship.  We love the pomp and circumstance of when the servants are all lined up in front of Downton at the Duke's arrival in this episode. 

Downton Abbey is about human compassion.  It is about bringing up a tray from the kitchen for your coworker when he's had a bad day.  It is about keeping your mouth quiet even when you know you are right because then you are a better person.  

The fashions in this whole series will leave you analyzing every little seam...and remember, this was a time of dressmakers-all quite bespoke.  We don't really want to ride but we do admire Lady Mary's riding outfit!  And if we got it we would get on the horse.  Maybe just for a picture.

The Abbey itself will leave you breathless.  If you ever have been attached to any family home, you will immediately get what this place means to this family, but we bet your past generations have not lived in your personal palace back as many generations as the Earl of Grantham's has...we love the furniture.  We love the rugs.  We love the big doors.  We love the keys.  And most of all, we love that library.  Peachy would like to move right in and have that be the new offices of Whom You Know.

If you've ever had backstabbing in your family, you will feel that misery loves company and that there is no love lost between certain members of this one once you tune in.  We're going to try not to give anything away, but Peachy's glad she doesn't have sisters after seeing this.   And as an added punishment, the Earl's family has two scheming servants - Thomas (one swallow doesn't make a summer!?!??) and O'Brien (Siobhan Finneran we would love to know if that is your real name and if we are related-Peachy's great-great grandmother was Maria Finneran who came from Galway/Roscommon)- that will make shivers go up your spine with their antics of disloyalty.

The contrast between the classes is constantly in motion, and if we do say so ourselves this is something Peachy Deegan has been studying since her days in English class at Miss Porter's when junior year she did a term paper on The Great Gatsby and senior year another on Howards End, both of which had class conflict as a major effect on each respective work.

In our days of the internet and emails galore, real letters are few and far between, but as Matthew would tell you, they can change your life.  We love it how they leave you hanging at the end of every episode, so you'll have to watch the next and before you know it you'll have stayed up the whole night watching half the series.  Twice.

This is a simpler time but with the same complex drama of life we live today-significant others coming in and out, where will you live, what will you have...And, this is a cast with a writer that knows the difference between who and whom.

Get your own copy, and start watching:







Special Extra Features Include “The Making of Downton Abbey” and “A House In History” 

Arlington, VA November 1 -- PBS Distribution is pleased to announce the January DVD release of “Downton Abbey,” MASTERPIECE’s lead program for its 40th anniversary celebration. Written and created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), “Downton Abbey” is an epic British TV period drama which will air on PBS over four Sunday nights in January and will be released on DVD January 11, 2011. Special bonus features on the DVD include two featurettes:“The Making of Downton Abbey” and “A House In History.” The dealer order date is December 14, 2010.

A smash hit when it aired in the UK, “Downton Abbey” follows in the tradition of the Emmy Award-winning “Upstairs, Downstairs” (a MASTERPIECE THEATRE favorite when it aired in the 1970s), which portrayed the lives of a wealthy aristocratic family and the relationships they had with their servants. “Downton Abbey” features lavish costumes, beautiful cinematography, seamless direction, and impeccably accurate set design. The cast includes Dame Maggie Smith (“Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone”), Hugh Bonneville (“Notting Hill,” “Iris”) and Elizabeth McGovern (“Clash of the Titans,” “The Wings of the Dove”).

Quotes about “Downton Abbey’s” British Premier on ITV
“An impeccably polished stroll back to the past.”
--London’s Metro

“…a sumptuous, instantly riveting glimpse of a world – and family – on the verge of profound change.” 
--London Telegraph

“The whole thing looks divine, and has the distinct advantage of being an original story and so completely unknown to all the viewers.”
--The Yorker

Plot Details
Set in 1912, “Downton Abbey” encompasses all the drama, romance, and politics of this era and is comparable to any lavish period piece on the big screen. Dame Maggie Smith portrays the matriarch of the Crawley family, desperately trying to navigate and strategize so her son (Hugh Bonneville) can hold onto the multi-million dollar inheritance he married into. Elizabeth McGovern gives an outstanding performance as the mother to their four daughters, each dowry-endowed, to attract an appropriate suitor. The eldest, Mary (Michelle Dockery) is as interested in being married through arrangement as she is in socializing with the servants downstairs.

And as all the drama is happening upstairs, downstairs also has its share. The servants are shaken up with the arrival of a new valet, John Bates (Brendan Coyle). Bates arrives at Downton in the first episode to take the position, but the servants are not supportive when they see he is wounded from the war and is lame. The help is as fiercely possessive of their ranks as anyone above and Thomas (Rob James-Collier), the first footman, wants Bates’ job and will do anything to get it – including theft and deceit. Some of the other servants are loyal to the family and are committed to Downton as a way of life, but others are moving through, on the look out for new opportunities, love or just adventure.

Much like blockbuster epic films such as “Young Victoria,” “Sense & Sensibility,” “Gosford Park,” “Howard’s End,” and “A Room With A View,” “Downton Abbey” is an engaging series that fans of period pieces will love. The series is comprised of three discs which have an approximate running time of six hours. 


“Downton Abbey”
Genre: Drama
Price: $34.99
Running Time: 6 Hours/3 Discs
Street Date: January 11, 2011

Bonus Features 

The Making of Downton Abbey (Running Time 13:09)
A House in History (Running Time 9:43)

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